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Online Course Design Institute

Update: Registration for the 2020 Online Course Design Institute is now closed. We thank the more than 400 faculty, staff, graduate students, and postdocs who participated in the institute this summer, as well as the 26 BOLD Faculty Fellows who helped facilitate the institute. Subscribe to the CFT newsletter to receive information on fall offerings of the Online Course Design Institute.

The Center for Teaching thanks Vanderbilt faculty, staff, and graduate students for participating in its 2020 Online Course Design Institute, a two-week online experience intended to help participants prepare to teach an online course. The Online Course Design Institute will be offered throughout the summer. Those serving as instructors of record for summer courses are especially encouraged to apply.

We know that online teaching is new territory for many of our faculty colleagues. Instructors adopted and evaluated a variety of online teaching practices during this spring’s shift to remote teaching, but designing fully online courses later this year will require and, indeed, benefit from more intentional and informed planning. We are offering this new course design institute as a structured professional development opportunity for faculty and other instructors to learn about effective practices in online education and to start planning their upcoming online courses.

During the institute participants will:

  • Develop a course plan for their upcoming online course, one that integrates learning objectives with assessments, assignments, and activities;
  • Build one or more sample modules for their courses, practicing the skills they will use to build other modules;
  • Plan strategies for helping their online students thrive, including strategies for promoting meaningful interaction, social presence, and equitable learning; and
  • Learn about the affordances of online teaching tools, identify tools that align with their goals, and develop practical skills using those tools.

The Online Course Design Institute will consist of a mix of asynchronous and synchronous activities, with time built in for individual course planning and digital tool practice. The total time commitment is expected to be 4 hours each weekday during the institute. Participants will work through a series of Brightspace modules leading through a course design process. They will also meet several times each week via Zoom in small cohorts for peer feedback on course plans. Each cohort during the May offerings of the OCDI will be facilitated by a Center for Teaching senior staff member.

For more detailed information about the OCDI, including module screen shots, view the OCDI Overview PDF document.

Comments from Past Participants

“Commit to spending the two weeks immersed in this. It is HUGELY beneficial. I learned tons about teaching online and tons about how to improve my teaching in any mode of delivery. I feel energized about teaching in a way that I have not felt in years.”

“The cohort meetings were great. I genuinely enjoyed meeting each day to go over ideas and ask questions, and honestly just build a rapport with classmates. It made me feel better about what I was doing and how I approach teaching in general.”

“My advice: approach the entire institute as an eager student! There’s so much to learn, and inhabiting the perspective of a student in an online course will reveal a lot about how you want to set up your own courses.”

“The OCDI made the process of converting an in person class to an online one more manageable and less overwhelming.”

“I can’t imagine going online and doing it well without this course!”

“You are not just learning about online teaching.  You need to learn how to teach in a whole new way.  Once you make the leap, you’ll feel more engaged in your teaching, your students will connect with you better, and you’ll help make Vanderbilt more competitive in this new playing field.”

“The OCDI will not only prepare you to teach online, but also improve your teaching overall… Make time to engage with the OCDI deeply not only to improve your own teaching, but also to contribute to a community of engaged teachers across the university.”


Below is a general schedule for the Online Course Design Institute for each of its two-week offerings. (Note that the schedule for specific offerings may vary due to holidays, etc.)

For more detailed information about the OCDI, including module screen shots, view the OCDI Overview PDF document.

DayModuleTopicSynchronous Meetings
Week 1
MondayModule 1Introduction - This module provides an orientation to the institute and its course design process, as well as key principles of online teaching.Cross-cohort, 60 minutes
TuesdayModule 2Goals & Objectives - This module guides participants through the process of articulating course goals and learning objectives.Cohort, 60 minutes
WednesdayModule 3Assessments & Assignments (Part 1) - This module explores a variety of principles and practices for assessing student learning.Cohort, 60 minutes
ThursdayModule 4Assessments & Assignments (Part 2) - In this module, participants develop assessment plans for their upcoming online courses.Cohort, 90 minutes
FridayModule 5Learning Activities (Part 1) - This module explores a variety of learning activities commonly and effectively used in online education.None
Week 2
MondayModule 6Learning Activities (Part 2) - In this module, participants develop a set of learning activities to use in their upcoming online courses.Cohort, 60 minutes
TuesdayModule 7Module Structure & Design - This module provides examples and resources for structuring online learning activities into logical modules.None
WednesdayModule 8Digital Tools - In this module, participants learn to use online teaching tools they expect to use in their upcoming courses.Tool-based, 90 minutes
ThursdayModule 9Course Plan - In this module, participants revisit their course plan as a way to integrate goals, assessments, and learning activities.Cohort, 90 minutes
FridayModule 10Conclusion - In this module participants develop a welcome message for their students and identify what's next in their course planning.Cross-cohort, 60 minutes

How do I apply?

Applications for the 2020 summer Online Course Design Institute are now closed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What times will the synchronous meetings be during the institutes?

Each participant in the institute will be assigned to a cohort of 5-6 faculty based in part on their availability for Zoom sessions. Each cohort will meet synchronously at a regular time, either 10am, 1pm, or 3pm. Most synchronous sessions will be an hour in length, but some may be 90 minutes. Plan on meeting at your assigned time each weekday during the two-week institute.

Please note that although the time commitment for the institute is approximately 4 hours each weekday, only 60-90 minutes of that time will be scheduled Zoom sessions. The rest of the activities can be done at any time during the day.

When will the institute be offered this summer?

We are planning to offer the Online Course Design Institute every two weeks this summer. Those offerings will be, tentatively:

  • June 1-12
  • June 15-26
  • June 29 – July 10
  • July 13-24
  • July 27 – August 7
  • August 10-21

Twenty hours a week for two weeks isn’t something I can do right now. Are there any alternative formats for the institute?

We expect that many instructors will be committing blocks of time this summer to planning summer and fall courses, and the institute is intended to provide structure, resources, and a learning community for that kind of planning. However, we acknowledge that the institute’s format won’t work for all instructors, given teaching schedules, research commitments, and childcare needs, among other factors.

The Center for Teaching is working on an expanded collection of new and existing on-demand resources for faculty and other instructors teaching online, a collection that will draw on materials from the course design institute. Until that collection is ready, please visit our just-in-time online teaching resources, or schedule a consultation via email, phone, or Zoom with one of the CFT’s teaching consultants.

I applied to participate in one of the institute offerings. Am I officially enrolled?

Not yet. While we may not reach capacity in some offerings of the institute, where we do reach capacity, we will have to prioritize some participants over others. As noted above, preference for the May offerings of the OCDI will be given to those teaching summer term courses. For the May 4-15 offering, we plan to let applicants know if they have a spot on Wednesday, April 29th.